(Re)turn to blogosphere

As there have been so many other possibilities to express myself in writing, I haven’t seen myself pressing ‘publish’ button too eagerly here. But I think it’s time to return to my personal blogosphere and continue reporting my unofficial thoughts here as well. Hopefully some of you are still listening!

In the meanwhile there have been several other blogging projects that you can check out, if you are curious:

GAIN – Games and Innovation (this is our new research project)
Intro to Game Design (this is online course that just closed)
Game Design Specialisation course blog (this was another online course)
Pelitieto.net (information package of games cultures to teachers, in Finnish)

Oh, and you can also follow my tweets at: http://twitter.com/aakoo

Future Play 2008

Alhough the GameSpace project has been officially come to an end; we are still working with the last pieces of the project and putting things to final touch. Upcoming research report is under its way, there are plans for closing seminar and I have been continuing with some of the topics in another project (GAS).

But also our last conference paper is about to be published under ACM digital library: Janne, GameSpace project manager, is currently at Toronto presenting our paper “Designing Game Idea Generation Games” at Future Play 2008 conference. The paper is similar to our Meaningful Play conference paper, but the emphasis is on the design process and challenges that we faced with our idea generation games. I will publish the link to the paper in ACM, as soon as I will get information about it.

Meaningful Play 2008 proceedings

Meaningful Play 2008 conference proceedings are now available at http://meaningfulplay.msu.edu/proceedings2008/ along with our paper “User Experiences of Game Idea Generation Games”.

Here is the abstract:

User Experiences of Game Idea Generation Games
Annakaisa Kultima, Johannes Niemelä, Janne Paavilainen and Hannamari Saarenpää

In this paper, we introduce three idea generation games designed for the use of game designers and discuss about the feedback they received while used in the authentic production settings. Three games designed especially for generating game ideas were developed in the GameSpace project that studies methods for design and evaluation of casual mobile multiplayer games. According to our experiences, games can be considered as successful devices for idea generation. Game-based idea generation techniques provide an easily facilitated, focused but playful setting for coming up with new ideas. We would like to share the feedback of our games in order to inspire others to create similar tools for generating innovative ideas in the field of games or other industries alike. 


Presenting at Meaningful Play 2008

I presented a paper at Meaningful Play 2008 conference in East Lansing, MI, USA concerning the game-based idea generation tools that we have developed in GameSpace project and especially the experiences designers had with the idea games in our pilot study. The presentation slot was quite short (15 min. for the presentation, 5 min. for discussion) and I had to rush my 20+ slides, leaving so many interesting things out. But what I tried to concentrate at was introducing our games and discus why they were so popular, despite their flaws. The presentation and the paper are not identical, as I added some new thoughts that I am working on into the slide-show. Papers will be available online later on, here are the slides:

The presentation background is taken (and modified) from the GameSpace Tool that we have been working on the last weeks of GameSpace project. The tool will popularize the whole range of research findings from our project. We are going to announce the tool later this year, as soon as it is ready!

Hypermedia Lab summer party and the Lego game

Aww… The summer seems to turn into its cold end… No more holiday, back to work and so on. Happens every year.

Before the summer break, I have been busy with couple of articles and trying to get myself free from work in order to start the holiday. Because of some deadlines I did not make it according to the plan and had to postpone the starting date with couple of days. Well, that happens.

Fortunately we had a nice summer party with Hypermedialab staff right before the biggest crunch. It is our tradition that smaller group of people plans the day in advance and keeps the destination and activities secret before arriving to the destination. This year I accidentally volunteered to the organising team and we came up with an idea of light adventurous hike and camping food (and the sauna after, which was no secret to anybody). 

We ended up to choose “Birgitan polku” near Hervanta and happened to get not-so-nice weather for the day. Fortunately our hiking trip was short and well equipped with sausages and dough for pancakes and our buss fetched us to sauna before anybody got thunderstruck. The evening was spent at enjoyable sauna apartment at Pääskylä. We had two saunas at our disposal: one with extra steam and one traditional smoke sauna, and of course: a lake to swim. The whole place was great to stay and relax: I could have been there much longer than till midnight, even though I fell asleep in between.

As I was one of the organisers, I cannot really say, if lego-game (Assembling the Talisman) that we designed with Mika was fun to play or not, but it seemed to be rather successful (you can judge from the pictures).


Feel free to copy the concept for your own parties:

Put together approximately ten-piece lego construction and give it to one player (the prophet), gather exactly the same pieces and give to another (the constructor). Put two players in between these two to deliver messages from one end to another (messengers). Put another team with the same construction with different coloured pieces and let the teams compete which one is faster to assembly the right combination. Only one player on the team sees the sample piece and only one player can put pieces together or remove pieces. The piece that is under construction, may be delivered to the other end for comparison, but messengers and constructor may not see the sample piece in any case (only the prophet, since it is actually only his/her vision). You can also use more than two messengers in between to make the messages even more difficult to deliver to the other end. See who is good with communication and have fun!

Credits for Mika for this not-too-complicated but yet-difficult-enough 10 piece construction that we tied into the narrative of the evening and called it “talismaani”.

To see more pictures of our wonderful day at Pääskylä, check Katis pics here, or Andras’ pics here.

Brainstorming EGE and Casual game heuristics

We recently re-ignited our work with “casual” and Expanded Game Experience model (EGE). After presenting the article “Casual Games Discussion” at the Future Play 2007 in Toronto, I have been working tentatively with heuristics concerning the design of casual games. I set up an internal blog for our team and started writing down the thoughts about “casual in games” in the form of design heuristics. Since then we have had also two internal brainstorming sessions concerning the topic. We are now working towards a new comprehension of the Expanded Game Experience as well, since the understanding the wide spectrum of casual in games seems to require wide perspective and holistic view on the game experience design.

One of the comments at our internal brainstorming session was quite humorous: “It is far more complicated to design a casual game than a hardcore game”. That is propably true in the end. But that was a thought sprang from our first draft and we are working towards a modular and easy-to-use heuristic set. We also experienced that even though brainstorming problematic subject as “casual” can be very fruitful, it seems to be very energy-consuming. Hard work indeed.

Pictures of us working with the model and the heuristics:

VNA and Pelixi competition

Pelixi game concept and demo competition for youngsters in Finland have announced their winners. I provided some materials to the site last autumn on behalf of GameSpace, as also giving out our at-that-time-ready VNA. I have decided to publish the card-set also here at my blog, since Pelixi site is closing at the end of the May. If you use VNA, please provide feedback and experiences that you have had with the set by email to me (annakaisa.kultima[ a t ]uta.fi). At the moment I have no idea if any Pelixi-participants have used the card set or other methods, but hopefully I will hear about it later.

The VNA card set is provided as a printable pdf version. You can print all the pages with a colour printer, glue face and back sides together and cut in order to create your own VNA set. Then just gather friends or colleagues and do some rapid free association starting with a random verb.

Preview of the pdf:

Download: vna_casualgames_cardset_2007

Instructions (only in Finnish): vna_fin_1

I also included these links at my new static section of this blog “other materials“.

Game idea generation survey draw

Today we finally organized a draw for all the respondents of our game idea generation study survey. Three fortunate participants were informed today of their happy news; our prizes included two free of choice book prizes and one surprise prize of Thinkpak cards. Hopefully soon we can reward also other participants with the results of the study. There is enough data for a while and we are still on the phase of making transcriptions of all the interviews and analysing other data. Look for future publications!

Here is the official draw committee (Hannamari took the pic):


Breaking the Magic Circle Seminar

One of the reasons I have been rather blog-quite after GDC is that our GameSpace team has been responsible for organising our Game Research Lab annual spring seminar. This year’s topic was “Breaking the Magic Circle”; we received large amount abstracts, welcomed over 50 participants and enjoyed loads of discussion in the actual event ending today.

Interesting palette of 17 working papers were presented during the two-day event including different theoretical approaches towards the very concept of “magic circle” originated from Johan Huizingas Homo Ludens as well as more practical applications revolving around this notion. There was talk about fictionality, social play, evolution, serious games, apophenia, pervasive games, law, society, monkies, flickr games and even applying game design principles for designing organizational experiences just to name a few.  Even more interesting discussions were done during the breaks, lunch, yesterdays evening venue at our lab and hopefully tonight as well after the sauna.

Our own paper was discussing the design process of our idea generation games and the usefulness of magic circle that games can provide for fostering the idea generation. Hopefully we get this paper published as soon as possible. There is still some work to do.

Frans Mäyrä, as being the chair, already managed to start the picture stream at Flickr. The first picture of the stream, which is also presented at Frans’ blog entry includes me too in my blueness. I am not sleeping… I was chatting at #breakingmagiccircle with my phone since my mac refused to continue without power.

Here are the slides of our presentation:


Media coverage on my GDC presentation

I have been too busy after GDC (planning future project, preparing Breaking the Magic Circle Seminar, writing an article, finnishing my studies on philosophy etc.) to actually post on my blog, but I will in near future. In the meanwhile, check out the media coverage for my GDC presentation: